Did Someone Say ‘Firehole’?

And then there is this ….

Ed Mazza explains what we are seeing:

The park says extreme heat from thermal areas is causing hot oil to bubble to the surface of Firehole Lake Drive, a scenic 3.3-mile loop that runs past Great Fountain Geyser, White Dome Geyser and Firehole Lake ….

…. “It basically turned the asphalt into soup,” park spokesman Dan Hottle told USA Today. “It turned the gravel road into oatmeal.”

That same thermal heat melting the road is what gives the park its famous geysers, hot springs, mudpots and fumaroles. But for the moment, some of these natural wonders will be off-limits as officials ask both motorists and hikers to avoid the area.

Yellowstone Road Melts, Shutting Down Access to Famous Geysers

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Hadron and the Headlines

CMS Proton CollisionNo, it is not the latest punk pop to zoom up the charts, but, rather, something about a nifty clickbait picture linking in turn to an amusingly awful headling for Adrian Cho’s update on the Higgs boson:

New data suggest that the particle discovered 2 years ago with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland is indeed the Higgs boson—the key to physicists’ explanation of how all fundamental particles get their mass.

Such particles come in two classes: bosons, which convey forces, and fermions, which make up matter. Previous measurements had shown that the new particle interacts with bosons: Physicists discovered it by spotting it decaying into two photons, the bosons that convey the electromagnetic force, or into two Z bosons, the massive particles that convey the weak nuclear force.

Now, researchers working with the mammoth CMS particle detector at the LHC have seen the Higgs decaying into fermions—either two tau leptons (above), heavier cousins of the electron, or two bottom quarks, beefy cousins of the up quarks and down quarks that make up protons and neutrons.

Then again, we’ll take the bad headline. If every joke was funny, then nothing would really seem funny, you know?

Higgs Boson Looks Even Higgs-ier

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Cho, Adrian. “Higgs Boson Looks Even Higgs-ier”. The Huffington Post. 26 June 2014.

The Persistence of Life

Perhaps at first glance it looks like evidence of an extraterrestrial invasion, a field of Teletubby egg sacs spread across the rocky plain. It is, in fact, la llareta (Azorella compacta, neé A. yareta), apparently a relative of parsley. The dense-growing evergreen perennial flowering shrub is found in South America. What makes llareta fascinating is not that the flowers are hermaphroditic, nor even that the species’ adaptations over the years make it unsuitable for growth in shade. Rather, it is that these organisms live for thousands of years. Some llareta in the Atacama are known to have survived over two millennia.

And if that isn’t enough to blow your mind, Katherine Brooks brings the news about a new book by Rachel Sussman, The Oldest Living Things In the World:

Photograph by Rachel Sussman.For nearly a decade, photographer Rachel Sussman has been traveling the globe in search of the world’s oldest living things. From the Mojave Desert to the Australian Outback to Greenland’s icy expanses, she captures portraits of life forms so relentless they’ve managed to survive eons of planetary change. An 80,000-year-old colony of aspen trees in Utah and a 43,600-year-old self-propagating shrub in Tasmania rank amongst Sussman’s unlikely subjects, just two of the many plants, fungi and invertebrates catalogued by her lens.

Gathered together in a book published this Spring, and aptly titled “The Oldest Living Things in the World,” the collection of age-old organisms serves as a stunning visual history of Earth’s extreme inhabitants. The collision of art and science is hardly just a visual feast of the past, it’s also a reminder of what the future might leave behind, as climate change and human endeavors threaten the existence of these millennia-old characters.

Sussman worked with biologists to complete the research for the project (not to mention science writer Carl Zimmer has provided the foreword and Hans Ulrich Obrist the essays for the new tome), and the photographer has worked tirelessly to bring awareness to the fragile nature of stromatolites, moss and other overlooked living things. Her 2010 TedTalk educated the world on 2,000-year-old brain coral off the coast of Tobago, while an article posted to Brain Pickings lamented the death of a 3,500 year old Cypress tree.

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Image credit: Rachel Sussman via Huffington Post.

Tornado Time

“By the grace of God almighty, and the pressures of the marketplace, the human race has civilized itself. It’s a miracle.

Roger Waters

Well, this isn’t good:

New Tornado AlleySome of the deadliest tornadoes have hit far east and south of Tornado Alley, which may be in part due to higher population density in some of these areas than in rural plains regions. After a rash of tornadoes killed more than 300 people in the Southern and Eastern U.S. in 2011, researchers questioned Tornado Alley’s traditional boundaries.

Data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show that severe tornadoes extend far beyond the plains, from the Midwest to the Deep South, according to a 2012 report from the research firm CoreLogic. Most of the Eastern half of the country is susceptible to tornado damage, with significant parts of 15 states facing extreme tornado risk.

Hall and Diehm

CoreLogic, as a point of reference, is the latest iteration of a growing real estate information enterprise. With an eye toward real estate, insurance, and development clientele, the firm concluded:

Record-breaking severe weather outbreaks and destruction, particularly in 2011, have
changed how insurers define high-risk areas beyond Tornado Alley and measure damage from all levels of storms. Insurers are now placing particular emphasis on improving their understanding of the geographic distribution and frequency of tornados and hail storms, which in turn provides a more accurate and complete analysis of risk potential. As more precise geospatial hazard risk modeling is used to fine tune this risk analysis, the way in which policies and rates are constructed will be affected.

Something about the private sector goes here. To the other, one can certainly see their interst; CoreLogic found “extreme tornado risk” in at least twenty-six states, and the company is not at all shy about its pitch to customers. Call it what you want, but it’s a starting point for … er … ah … well, some useful discussion, we might hope.

Linkadelica

“Okay, here’s what we’ve got: The Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the Saucer People, under the supervision of the Reverse Vampires, are forcing our parents to go to bed early in a fiendish plot to eliminate the meal of dinner.”

Milhouse van Houten

Fabian Oefner, Black Hole (detail)Cassini buzzes Titan again today.

• Paint … drill … physics … camera … art.

• This time it’s in Turkey; or, they found Hell … again.

• Er … oh, wait … Ur? (Wait, wasn’t that the Geo Quiz last week?)

Rhett Allain would like to confuse you; but then he sets everything straght again, so it’s safe to click the link.

• Today’s vocabulary lesson: ectopic eyes.

Twit le Monde

TweetpingTwitter is a curious beast, a nest of contradictions. To the one it is annoying and inane. To the other, it is fascinating and transformative. And, really, it depends on who you pay attention to. That is to say, sure my favorite novelist likes to tell the world what and when he’s drinking, or what he thinks the dog thinks, or the latest idea for a band name. But I like his sense of humor, so it’s hardly as annoying as a high school friend who constantly shares coupons and sale prices from various online and brick-and-mortar retailers via Facebook; my own Facebook page, incidentally, is littered with bad jokes about news, and updates on what beer I’m drinking. To the other, you can get important news updates, or find out what rock Curiosity is drilling, or even how far away the Voyager probes are. And, of course, there are the constant updates of who has posted what on the internet. (NovSci does not currently have a Facebook page or Twitter feed, but we are considering the merits.)

Enter Tweetping, which might actually be more interesting than Twitter itself. The site allows you to watch Twitter in realtime, and is strangely hypnotic.

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A Tale of Two Rocks

It has been quite a day for a falling sky. As murmurs rippled around the world that the end may be near, and astronomers worked to reassure everyone that asteroid 2012 DA14 would not strike the Earth today, despite its historic pass inside our satellite orbital ring, an unrelated meteorite chose to scare people in Russia this morning.

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